Our CHI workshop spin-off article, "A Grand Challenge for HCI: Food + Sustainability" was just published in the November/December issue of Interactions magazine. You unfortunately have to be an ACM member or work at a university (organization) that has access to the ACM Digital Library to be able to easily read the article.
I wrote a blog post about our submission to the CHI workshop back in January but I did unfortunately not write a blog post about the workshop itself in May. The workshop was called "Designing sustainable food systems" and it has a homepage of its own. I'd say about half the participants of the workshop contributed to the article (the authors are more specifically Juliet Norton, Ankita Raturi, Bonnie Nardi, Sebastian Prost, Samantha McDonald, Daniel Pargman, Oliver Bates, Maria Normark, Bill Tomlinson, Nico Herbig and Lynn Dombrowski). The article was then written between the end of May and the end of June and it was submitted to Interactions in the beginning of July. First author and workshop organizer Juliet Norton took it upon herself to do most of the admin/coordination work for which we are all grateful.
As part of the submissions process, we formulated and submitted three "insights" to Interactions:
- The paradigms and practices of HCI research risk perpetuating the shortcomings of food systems.
- Before designing technological solutions, we must understand current food systems and how technology is already being used.
- We must enable food sovereignty, push for new policies, and re-configure the trust and power relationships in food systems.
Here's the introduction to the article:
This year at the ACM CHI Conference, we gathered as a group of HCI researchers, designers, and practitioners to reflect on our role in designing sustainable food systems . Designing them is a challenge that involves all parts and actors of the food system , including production and agriculture, processing and manufacturing, wholesale and logistics, retail and food services, purchasing and consumption, and waste management. Fifteen participants represented and discussed ongoing investigations into designing technologies for food and sustainability . We considered the role of waste, the use of food as medicine, the repercussions of antibiotic resistance, the pervasiveness of poverty, and the tensions between local and global systems. The workshop culminated in a design session focused on techniques and paradigms for future components of a sustainable food system.
Designing sustainable food systems, including the sociotechnical systems that work toward that ideal, is key to producing stable climates, societies, and economies. The ongoing and future changes in climate, food security, and socioeconomic issues are further complicated by a tenuous geopolitical context. Given this reality, it is imperative that we are deliberate in our design of food-system components and supporting technologies so we can better contribute to the sustainability of our food system.
HCI researchers have long engaged with issues surrounding “food + sustainability.” In 2009, Eli Blevis and Susan Coleman introduced the HCI community to concepts regarding sustainable food and demonstrated how information technologies for food present both problems and opportunities . Recently, there has been increasing interest in “disrupting” food through technology ranging from food-delivery mobile applications and component-based cooking to creating data-driven sustainability ratings. Such technologies could improve aspects of the food system for some people, but are these technologies creating sustainable food systems for everyone?
Here, we reflect on the core opportunities for HCI design and research within a sustainable food system. This article serves two purposes. First, we situate food as a grand challenge for HCI and discuss three emerging themes that challenge the paradigm and practice of technology. Second, based on these themes, we put forth a research agenda for food + sustainability within HCI.